As the primary facilitator of Austin’s local OCD support group, there are a few things that are generally expected of me.
1. Show up
2. Be supportive
3. Make sure we have a place to meet
It isn’t an awful lot, and most of the time, I do a pretty good job of it. Honestly, I love facilitation. I love seeing others make progress, and sharing in their successes. It makes me feel useful. And even when I don’t want to go, I nearly always end up enjoying myself. Group meetings are one place where I feel truly competent …
Most of the time.
Tonight, I failed in objective 3. We don’t usually meet on the third Tuesday of December. So close to the holidays, we’ve always taken this week off. But we talked about it this year, and decided that we wanted to meet. After all, holidays are tough. All the added stress is a breeding ground for OCD symptoms. But because we don’t usually meet, the church wasn’t expecting us. I knew this would be the case. I was reminded of it at the last meeting. All I needed to do was call the church and let them know we were coming.
I forgot to call the church.
Until about an hour before our meeting tonight, when it suddenly dawned on me. And then I panicked. My own OCD kicked into overdrive. What would we do? Where would we meet? What if we couldn’t get in? Would we have to go somewhere else? And then, if there were people who were late, would they know where to go? What if they really needed the meeting – what if I’ve failed them? The doubt crept into my mind. What if I don’t really have any business being a facilitator at all? When I made it to the church, I was met by a locked door and complete darkness.
This is the way OCD works. Mistakes feel huge. We see the potential for catastrophe around every corner. We feel responsible for the world. I was sure that I’d done something terrible.
And then I was reminded that I was human, and it wasn’t the end of the world. That things have a funny way of working out for the best.
So, for the first time, our OCD support group met outside, under the stars and by the light of a tree that the church lit for Christmas. Luckily, we had an 80 degree day here in Texas for the first day of winter. Luckily, several of us had chairs, pillows, and blankets in our cars. Luckily, everyone was amenable to sitting outside. And really – with the exception of the added traffic noise, it was nice. There was something kind of magical about being mostly in the dark. Something very intimate about sitting so close together, like a camp out. I felt like we had a great meeting.
Even though I’m still a little annoyed with myself for my forgetfulness, I’m a little glad of it too. There is beauty in unexpected change, and resilience in the midst of struggle.
And as I sit here in Lockhart, having finally arrived home for Christmas, I just want to say that my wish for all of them – for everyone living with a mental illness – is peace of mind. It is a humbling experience, to sit with others who struggle. I wish I could make it go away. I wish that I could wrap up peace of mind in neat little boxes, with beautiful ribbons, and stick it under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, that isn’t in my power. All I can do is show up, and be supportive…
And in the future, remember to call the church. Or at least keep a few extra chairs packed in the trunk of my car.